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Legal News – Law Hot Topics

You will at some point in your legal career journey have to attend an interview. They are a key part of many different application processes, including: university, apprenticeships, vacation schemes, mini-pupillages, GDL, LPC or BPTC, training contracts, pupillages, and more.

They can also be a fairly daunting experience, and many candidates struggle with interviews more than any other stage in the application process.

This page outlines some of the legal controversies in the media recently that may well come up in your interview. Knowing potential topics of questions is just the first step to a more successful outcome.

Use this page as a starting point to prepare for any hot topic obstacle your interviewer might throw at you, and put your legal news knowledge worries to rest.

Legal News – Hot Topics: No Fault Divorce

In summary:

In the 2018 Owens v Owens case, a divorce was not given by the courts as none of the five facts required for divorce were met despite a clear irretrievably broken down relationship.

As a result of this, the government made plans to reform the divorce process to remove the concept of fault.

In April 2019, the government published its response to the consultation and confirmed that it would introduce new legislation.

Following reform, a couple or one party would need to notify the court that their marriage had irretrievably broken down. These changes would also apply to the dissolution of civil partnerships.

How to use this in an interview: 

Read the proposal and the above case and decide what your views are on the government’s decision.

Candidates should have an opinion on how this legislative change may affect family law practice. Particularly, if such a legal change will increase the divorce rate or make divorce more efficient for couples.

You may also be asked to give your opinion on the problems with the current legislation and if you believe new legislation will stamp out the existing problems.

Legal News – Hot Topics – Rape Victims’ Mobile Phones

In summary:

A controversial new form issues to rape complainants says they must hand over their mobile phones or risk having their cases dropped.

Following this, several women who refused to hand over their devices could no longer process with their cases.

Apart from the obvious issue of privacy invasion, another risk of handing in their mobile devices is that information not relevant to the cause could be extracted by police and used against victims in court, although prosecutors insist that that is not the case.

Critics also warn that by focusing on the information provided by the complainant, the victims themselves could become the object of investigation; not just the accused.

How to use this in an interview: 

You need to be able to present a balanced and well-researched overview of this topic, citing the laws around consent.

Quoting and giving your opinion on key critics and talking about the danger of deterring complainants from coming forward will be useful here, along with what legal actions you think should be taken.

Read Questions for Your Criminal Law Training Contract Interview

Legal News – Hot Topics: Brexit

In summary:

When the UK voted to leave the European Union on 23rd June 2016, there were many promises made about how this would be a positive move for the UK.

With slogans such as ‘£350 million a year for the NHS’ and the opportunity to ‘take back our borders’, it seemed as if the change would ultimately be for the better.

However, after more than one extension of the date, the UK and the rest of Europe are increasingly uncertain as to what post-Brexit Britain will look like.

This unprecedented level of uncertainty will affect job sectors throughout the country, but the legal sector will be particularly involved.

Moreover, with Theresa May resigning on 7th June 2019, a new race for the next Tory leader begun. It will, therefore, be important to have an opinion as to how you believe Brexit will be resolved in the light of new leadership.

How to use this in an interview: 

The key here would most likely be to give a well-researched viewpoint whilst being wary of becoming too political with regards to the referendum result.

Realistically, there are no right or wrong answers and the best preparation would either be to watch the news on a daily basis or read a reputable newspaper, to keep updated on the latest progress.

Questions could also focus on how Brexit may impact the legal sector specifically. Candidates, in this case, may want to either look broadly at the issue of unravelling EU law or look more specifically to the respective firm’s specialism.

If you would like further insight into tackling Brexit at an interview, take a look at our How to Discuss Brexit at a Training Contract Interview blog, or our Impact of Brexit on Law Firms page.

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Legal News – Hot Topics: Artificial Intelligence

In summary:

The impact of new legal technology is something which law firms are particularly aware of. Many firms wish to pioneer it as an important part of their future development, however they also want to ensure that technology and in particular, artificial intelligence, does not take over from human participation in legal problems.

Artificial intelligence mimics certain operations of the human mind and is the term used when machines are able to complete tasks that require human intelligence.

AI could be used to review documents and legal research, help perform due diligence, contract review and management, predict legal outcomes and optimise recruitment.

According to Deloitte, 100,000 legal roles will be automated by 20136. Now is the time for all law firms to commit to becoming AI-ready.

How to use this in an interview:

Candidates should know the types of jobs that artificial intelligence may be helpful for in future development and whether the firm should embrace these changes.

It is important for you to have a spectrum of opinion in this case – how artificial intelligence an augment what humans do and free them up for higher level tasks.

Also, how humans will be required in the legal field to relate to clients and their personal or business matters.

You may also benefit from having an opinion on what firms can do to embrace a growth mindset in terms of AI and innovate to be ready for this massive step-change.

Legal News – Hot Topics: The Solicitors Qualifying Exam

In summary:

The Solicitors Regulation Authority will introduce a common assessment that all prospective solicitors will take before qualifying in autumn 2021.

Their belief is that it will allow for everyone to meet the same high standards in a consistent way.

In order to pass the SQE, you are required to pass stages one and two, which comprise of legal knowledge and practical legal skills respectively.

You will also need to have obtained a degree or equivalent qualification in any subject, as well as pass the character and suitability requirements; and have two years qualifying work experience. This, in effect, may allow paralegals and apprentices to also qualify.

How to use this in an interview:

Law firms are immensely interested in the SQE, the benefits of it in comparison with the traditional LPC followed by two-year training contract route to qualification and the difference it will make to graduate recruitment within the firm.

A well-researched answer is key here. You may be asked if you believe the benefits outweigh any risks in changing the qualification route.

Moreover, you may be asked to consider how the firm should amend their graduate recruitment to make way for those qualifying via this route post-2021.

Legal News – Hot Topics: Alternative Dispute Resolution

In summary:

Over the past decade or so, courts have begun to favour many different approaches as alternatives to the traditional model of litigation.

This has reached an extent where many parties, for example, will now be penalised when it comes to the settlement if they have not tried to mediate beforehand.

Many people now accept that in the not too distant future, the majority of civil and family cases will be potentially solved by mediation or, where applicable, arbitration.

Mr. Justice Francis in the case Great Ormond Street Hospital v Yates & Gardwent as far as to say that all cases should attempt to mediate, even if just to better understand the others’ position.

How to use this in an interview:

Candidates may be asked to give their opinion on how they believe cases are likely to be approached in the future and give their opinion on the efficacy of alternative dispute resolution, as opposed to going to court.

Those going into firms which place an emphasis on mediation may be asked what they know about it and whether or not they have any experience in the field.

Candidates can prepare for questions of this nature by reading over the relevant information on the Civil Mediation Council or even applying to observe an experienced mediator.

Whilst criminal law is far more litigation based, candidates may be asked how they feel court proceedings can be improved and whether there is an alternative to litigation where minor offences are concerned.

Legal News – Hot Topics: Freelance Legal Advice

In summary:

The Solicitors Regulation Authority has confirmed that as of November 2019, solicitors can give so-called freelance legal advice.

This will allow them to work for themselves and be subject to less rigorous regulation than in normal circumstances.

This means that solicitors may be able to create their own path for their career and won’t have to register as a sole practitioner or practice in-house in a business or part of a firm. Whilst this ability to make your own path is deemed a benefit for an increase in diversity in the legal profession as those from non-traditional backgrounds may be able to begin their legal career of their own accord. However, insurance and regulation issues for freelance advice may cause issues of understanding between clients and solicitors.

How to use this in an interview:

There has been some controversy about this decision with some people describing it as potentially leading to a type of free for all.

This might come up in an interview as interviewers may be interested in gauging your opinion on the future of solicitors in firms if this freelance option becomes more widespread.

You may also be asked to offer an opinion on why you prefer to work in a firm rather than taking the freelance option yourself.

Legal News – Hot Topics: The Climate Crisis

In summary:

Climate change is a massive global and legal crisis. Litigation with climate as its focus is going to begin affecting both public and private areas of law. Companies are going to become more liable for ecological based damages and crimes.

Moreover, law firms have to become more conscious of their eco-impact. For example, adaptations must be made to move towards paperless office environments, recycling of office supplies and a change in everyday practices to make them more sustainable for the future.

How to use this in an interview:

Candidates should be able to suggest examples of how offices can become more sustainable in their practices and demonstrate knowledge of any existing practices the firm may be undertaking to create a sustainable and eco-friendly office. As well as being able to highlight why this is so important in this day and age.

Moreover, you may also be asked to explain what sectors of the law or practice areas of the specific interviewing firm which will be most affected by the global climate crisis.

Something very up to date in this area is the government’s decision to include the climate change campaign group Extinction Rebellion as an extremist ideology – you may be asked to provide your opinion on this decision.

Legal News – Hot Topics: First Opposite-Sex Civil Partnerships

In summary:

Monday 2nd December 2019 was the day on which mixed-sex couples could register their intent to enter into a civil partnership – this meant that after the 28-day notice period the first opposite-sex civil partnerships could be entered into on the 31st December 2019.

The government projects that just over 80,000 mixed-sex couples could form civil partnerships in 2020.

How to use this in an interview:

Candidates should be able to demonstrate knowledge of this legislative change and know details of the case which brought this change about. R (on the application of Steinfeld and Keidan) (Appellants) v Secretary of State for International Development (in substitution for the Education Secretary) (Respondent) [2018] UKSC 32.

You should also have an opinion on how this might change the practice within the family law sector taking into consideration potential lower marriage rates or a potential need to revisit the specificities of civil partnership dissolution should the rates increase following increases in civil partnerships themselves.

Legal News – Hot Topics: Donald Trump’s Impeachment

In Summary:

The impeachment process began in September when someone complained to Congress about a phone call made by the US President to the president of Ukraine, in which Trump appeared to suggest that if Ukraine launched investigations that would aid him politically, then they could expect US military assistance.

Among formal impeachment, other charges to be considered are an abuse of power, obstruction of justice and contempt of Congress.

In December, three experts described the actions of trump to solicit help from Ukraine as a crime and accused him of obstructing justice.

The Senate impeachment of Donald Trump began on the 16th January 2020.

How to use this in an interview:

The impeachment of a president would fall under US Constitutional law, it would, therefore, be unlikely to overlap with any areas a law firm may practice within. It would be naïve to suggest that the third ever impeachment of a US President is not a huge legal news story to keep up to date with.

It may be important to be able to demonstrate your knowledge of trial and what President Trump is charged with and accused of doing. You should also have a personal opinion on the importance of this within the legal sphere.

Words: Alicia Gibson

Want even more interview advice? You can visit our Pupillage Interview page or our Training Contract Interview page, including specific pages for telephone interviews, online interviews and face-to-face interviews!

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